This excerpt was taken from Barefoot World’s History of AA.
Sister Ignatia increasingly began to believe that alcoholics should not be sneaked into the hospital but brought through the front door just like other sick people.
This belief led to the first medical admission in 1935. Soon, she provided a ward for men to sober up and St. Thomas Hospital became the first religious institution to recognize the rights of alcoholics to receive hospital treatment. Today, many of AA’s practices — including the use of tokens to mark milestones in sobriety — find their origins with Sister Ignatia.
Sister lgnatia was the first person to use medallions in Alcoholics Anonymous. She gave the drunks who were leaving St. Thomas after a five day dry out a Sacred Heart Medallion and instructed them that the acceptance of the medallion signified a commitment to God, to A.A. and to recovery and that if they were going to drink, they had a responsibility to return the medallion to her before drinking. The custom is carried out to this day with tokens awarded for sobriety. The sacred heart medallions had been used prior to A.A. by the Father Matthew Temperance Movement of the 1840’s and the Pioneers, an Irish Temperance Movement of the 1890’s